I n the centre of town, on the summit of the highest hill defended by the double curtain wall, lies the Town Hall with the Civic Tower. The large-sized building, capable of housing community meetings and important events, dominates the walled town’s square from atop the walls enclosing Mondolfo’s urban nucleus. The structure of this imposing residence, built in the medieval style, is interrupted in the centre by the Civic Tower. The bare masonry exterior is built with bricks probably recovered from the ancient municipal headquarters that collapsed during an earthquake in 1930. A stringcourse lines the entire top section of the building, amid variously shaped basreliefs featuring mythological monsters for scaring away improbable enemies. The building contains stylistic elements reminiscent of an unvanquished fortress (not rare for a public building—albeit located in the centre of a walled town— ideally arising out of the turbulent latemedieval period), like the Guelph battlements along the top, which rest on projecting corbels lining the tower. The latter, which adds gracious dynamism to the long front end of the building, contains the public clock and bell chamber, and is topped by the flapping municipal flag of Mondolfo. The building’s exterior contains three elements defining the municipality’s independent status. One is the gold and blue flag with two bands of equal width, where gold represents the town’s fertile hill covered with golden crops ready for harvesting, while blue evokes the waters of the Adriatic Sea teeming with fish. Just below, a sturdy oak structure inside the bell chamber supports St Gervasius, namely the large municipal bell dedicated to the co-patron saint of Mondolfo, who is venerated in the namesake abbey at the foot of the hill. The bell was recast by caster Luigi Baldini from Sassoferrato in 1833, on the initiative of the prior Giulio Briganti and following the unanimous decision of the town council members, as the original bronze had deteriorated. According to ancient laws, the bells rung in peal to notify the townsfolk on the morning when the town council—the town’s highest government body—met. In an even remoter age, the bells were also rung to ward off the negative effects of storms, and heightened the jubilation, devotion and faith of the inhabitants. The stone shield with the municipal emblem held by a lion’s mouth identifies the double entrance stairway leading to the external loggia of the Town Hall. The loggia has three access doors to the building and contains a large emblem with the ensigns of the Della Rovere family, a noteworthy work dating from the 15th century ascribable to the workshop of Ambrogio Barocci, the stone decorator from Milan. It also houses a stone fragment from Mondolfo’s demolished fortress, inscribed with the words IO PRE, which refer to Giovanni Della Rovere, the Prefect of Rome. Beyond the entrance, a large stairway leads to the first floor. Both sides of the stairs leading to the upper vestibule, with the Municipal Picture Gallery, are lined with ancient ducal portraits. Completed by an unknown 16th-century painter, they include portraits of some Dukes of Urbino, including Giovanni Della Rovere and his successors Francesco Maria I and Guidobaldo II. A crystal display cabinet includes a fine baptismal font from the Abbey of St Gervasius, a superb example of early medieval sculpture. A narrow passageway leads to the Sala Grande (‘Large Room’), once used as the state room and illuminated by a gracious small loggia located in front of the building. An oil on canvas painting of the Rape of Europe, by an unknown 16th-century painter, decorates the wall leading to the Mayor’s Cabinet. In front of it lies an artistic 17th-century municipal coat of arms, made of painted and gilded carved wood: it displays a crown above three gold and blue (the official colours of the municipality) hills, each surmounted by an oak tree.
Did you know that …the municipal coat of arms
Although the oldest municipal coat of arms is displayed in the monumental Church of St Augustine, which also houses the moulding of the Magistrate’s Bench, the 17thcentury version found in the Sala Grande is polychrome. Surmounted by a ducal crown, Mondolfo’s coat of arms evokes the municipality’s orographic features and history. The territory is represented by three rows of hills lying parallel to the sea: indeed, when seen from afar, the town appears to sit upon three small hills. These were once covered with woodlands—mainly oak and sessile oak (rovere in Italian)—belonging to a prince bearing a clearly evocative name: Della Rovere.